It's common knowledge that orthodontists will give you a retainer after your braces are finally taken off, but you might be wondering why you have to wear a retainer if your teeth are nice and straight. If you're considering not using your retainer because it's uncomfortable, you should know why wearing it is important before you make that decision.
Relapse Is Common The Year After Braces
Relapsing, or the movement of adjusted teeth back into their previous unhealthy places, can happen if the newly moved teeth aren't supported often enough throughout the first year after the braces come off. To understand why this happens and why your retainer is vital, you have to first understand the process of moving a tooth.
Teeth are anchored to the jaw bone by hardened calcium deposits. When braces apply the pressure to shift teeth over time, the roots are slowly moved to a new place in the jaw. The calcium no longer attached to the tooth root is absorbed back into the jaw bone, and the body deposits new calcium around the tooth's root to hold it there. Unfortunately, these new deposits take time to become as strong as the old ones were, so it's easy for teeth to move before they're firmly set in the jaw.
The purpose of the retainer is to make sure the teeth stay in place while their bond to the jaw is solidified, which is why you can wear your retainer less over time as the bond strengthens.
Everyone's Teeth Naturally Shift
A year or so after your braces are removed, the roots of your teeth should be as secure as they're ever going to get. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean you can stop wearing your retainer.
Teeth are subject to many different pressures on a daily basis, from biting, to chewing, to the tongue pressing against them when you think hard or swallow food. These pressures cause teeth to slowly shift forward and crowd together as you age. As if that wasn't unpleasant enough, this slow shifting may trigger a relapse if other factors like gum disease weaken your teeth's bond to your jaw.
Fortunately, wearing your retainer a few times a week can prevent this lifetime tooth migration and preserve your perfect bite. While it may seem like a hassle to keep wearing it, it's much less bothersome than trying to adjust your bite when you're older and your bones are less cooperative.
You May Have Habits That Affect Your Teeth
Sometimes teeth just grow in crooked or crowded, and straightening them out is all you have to do to get a good bite. Other times, straight teeth can be pushed into bad positions by bad oral habits that you might not even be aware you have.
For example, grinding your teeth subconsciously when frustrated, thinking hard, or sleeping may not be something you can control, no matter how hard you try. Another common cause of tooth misalignment is if you have a tendency to press your tongue hard against the back of your teeth when swallowing. Chewing on hard items, biting too hard when you eat, and other subconscious habits can also exert enough force over time to jostle your teeth around.
It's far easier from a behavioral perspective to just use your retainer as directed, instead of trying to identify your bad habits and train them away. No matter what small forces you subject your teeth to throughout the day, your retainer should provide sufficient structure to help them keep their positions.
Retainers aren't the most fun thing in the world. They can be uncomfortable to wear and even hurt when you put them on after not wearing them for a long time. Still, they protect your oral health from the forces that might move your teeth around and cause you to need braces all over again. If you ever catch yourself wondering why you keep wearing your retainer, just take a good look at your nice straight teeth in the mirror for your answer.
For more information, contact a local dental clinic like Crest Hill Family Dental.